July 16, 2018
Bringing Science Back
By Michael D. Shaw
Back in October, 2013, this column posted an article entitled “Whatever Happened To Science?” The piece chronicled the sad fall of Science—and its great promise, coming off postwar successes such as the polio vaccine and elucidating the structure of DNA. “[A]s the 1960s played out and the public’s respect for all manner of once cherished institutions began to crumble, Science too was put under scrutiny. Its great promise and past accomplishments now forgotten, the accounting was done, and on the bottom line were frightful weapons systems, nuclear waste, and napalm.”
Partially at fault is how politicized the grant process has become. There is seemingly unlimited funding for “sexy” and often PC projects, along with stifling orthodoxy, and active crushing of dissenting views. We have chronicled several examples of this in healthcare, including:
- Unjustified advocacy of glycemic control above all else in diabetes.
- Continued promotion of a low-salt diet as healthy, despite hundreds of studies disproving this.
- Officialdom’s wrong-headed support for a low fat, high carb diet, despite all contrary evidence. In the linked piece, we refer to a blurb on Nina Teicholz’ bestseller The Big Fat Surprise…
“Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fats is wrong. She documents how the past sixty years of low-fat nutrition advice has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health.”
- And, how about this gem (“Carbohydrates are killing us”), which appeared recently in the Washington Times?
I can’t help thinking that if more Americans were knowledgeable about science, far less abuse and polarization would be occurring. But, how do we accomplish this? After all, we hear endlessly that Americans are scientifically illiterate; that Americans avoid science because it is too difficult and that they do not trust scientific experts on many issues–especially those related to food and health matters.
The food/health linked story quotes a frustrated Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) reacting to the latest edition of the HHS/USDA dietary guidelines…
“I want you to understand, from my constituents, most of them don’t believe this stuff anymore. You have lost your credibility with a lot of people. They are just flat out ignoring this stuff, and so that’s why I say I wonder why we are doing this.”
Likewise, a sentence from Michael Pollan’s 2008 book In Defense of Food, has been widely quoted: “Thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker and fatter while ruining countless numbers of meals.” And there you have an eloquent testimony of the public’s skepticism, and even distrust of science.
The American Council on Science and Health has done wonders in its battle against junk science, culminating with the publication of its Little Black Book of Junk Science.
Fair enough, but what can we do to get people more hands-on with science in the first place? DreamUp–an educational company dedicated to providing in-space opportunities to non-professionals–is accomplishing this in a big way. This public benefits corporation provides space-based educational opportunities to all students–from primary to post-doctorate–to the International Space Station and beyond.
By way of example, on June 29, SpaceX CRS-15 lifted off carrying 40 education-related experiments from DreamUp learners. Included in this payload to the International Space Station were an experiment to investigate the functionality of pumps using ferrofluids in microgravity; and biological experiments involving kidney stones; the growth of osteoblast cells; and how penicillin mold reacts and saliva decays teeth, in the microgravity environment.
Carie Lemack, DreamUp’s CEO and Co-founder, commented on the youthful scientists involved in the June 29th mission…
“These visionary students range from middle school to university age and come from places as diverse as Knoxville, Tennessee to Stuttgart, Germany to Ra’anana, Israel. We’re proud to support their research in space and to spark their imaginations about future possibilities in science, technology, engineering, math and beyond.”
As to the matter of getting Americans back in touch with science, she told me…
“When students ask science questions here on Earth, and have a chance to research the answers to those questions in space, we can improve any aspect of life, including healthcare. To be empowered to make such educational investigations, and for learners to be fluent in these matters, we need schools to adopt–and teachers to embrace–curricula that introduce the wonders of space to students nationwide. DreamUp makes that mission exciting to teach and fun to learn.”